Can Brandon Drury get even better with the Yankees?

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The Yankees acquired utility man Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks last week in a three-team deal that also sent outfielder Steven Souza from the Tampa Bay Rays to Arizona and four prospects to Tampa Bay. This acquisition has similar initiatives to the deal that netted Didi Gregorius: a three-team deal where the Yankees brought in a young infielder from the Diamondbacks who they believed had more potential than what he had produced to date.

Of course, that is not to say that Gregorius and Drury are exactly the same type of player and the situation will play out the same, but the Yankees’ brass indicated that they have been scouting Drury for quite some time, and believe that his peak is yet to come.

Scouts believe that Drury’s swing, which allows him to naturally drive the ball to the opposite field, will play nicely in Yankee Stadium. He did hit approximately 26 percent of his batted balls the other way in 2017, slightly above the league average of 25 percent, and five of his thirteen home runs were hit either to center or right field. He also hit 37 doubles last season, and some of those will certainly go out to right in Yankee Stadium. One thing to note is his home-road splits: in his career, he has hit .305 at home with 45 doubles, 19 home runs, and 75 RBI in 465 at-bats versus .239 on the road with only 26 doubles, 12 home runs, and 49 RBI in 497 at-bats.

But as aforementioned, playing a majority of his games at Yankee Stadium will be conducive to his approach.

Given the depth of the Yankees lineup, it is likely that Drury, who grew up a Yankees fan in Oregon, will be given pitches to hit. Although he has amassed solid numbers in his career, he will likely be viewed as a lesser hitter when compared to the likes of Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Gregorius. This could lead to pitchers being more likely to attack him earlier in the count. Here are some numbers on how Drury performed in those situations in 2017:

Count At-Bats Batting Average
0-0 47 .298
1-0 19 .526
0-1 47 .362
1-1 54 .370

Needless to say, Drury hits fairly well early in the count, and the protection he’ll receive can only help. Additionally, because of the protection he’ll have, he might see more fastballs, which he has hit .292 against in his career.

In terms of his defense, general manager Brian Cashman indicated that Drury will primarily be positioned at third base, where they believe he is more comfortable. He was forced to shift primarily to second base last year due to Jake Lamb holding down the hot-corner for the Diamondbacks.

Drury played 947 innings at second compared to just 7 at third. His .977 fielding percentage in the 947 innings was just below the league average for second basemen at .982. Drury believes that his natural position is third, and thus moving back there could help his game overall.

His versatility is also of value to the Yankees, with potential for him to become a Ben Zobrist-type player. While he did not play the outfield at all in 2017, he actually spent over twice the amount of time there than the infield in 2016. Therefore, if the Yankees decided to pursue Manny Machado to play third next offseason or prefer to have Miguel Andujar there, Drury can last past 2018 with the Yankees being someone who could fill in at multiple positions.

Add in the fact that he’s only 25 years old and a pre-arbitration player this upcoming season having yet to accrue three years of service time, this is a high-upside move that not only gives the team insurance for the present, but also potential for the future.

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